Ryan Graveface recently opened his pop-up location in the Oglethorpe Mall.
Ryan Graveface recently opened his pop-up location in the Oglethorpe Mall.

PROPERTY MATTERS: Graveface Records & Curiosities brings some local life to Oglethorpe Mall

Updated May 30, 2023 at 5:53 p.m.

Eric Curl/May 24, 2023
The Graveface Records and Curiosities shop is located in the Macy's wing of the Oglethorpe Mall.

As one William Faulkner may have said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

He could easily have been talking about 7804 Abercorn St., where the Oglethorpe Mall continues to host shoppers searching for the latest sameness sold for decades to the American shopper. There are indications of a pulse, however, according to one local business owner.

Amid national chain stores such as Macy's, Express and Auntie Anne's Pretzels, patrons of the Oglethorpe Mall can now find a locally-owned source of records, goth attire, arcade games and horror-themed memorabilia.

Ryan Graveface has brought his love of music and the macabre to the mall with the opening of a temporary "pop up" version of Graveface Records & Curiosities, the business he established almost 13 years ago at 5 W. 40th St. in the area branded as the Starland District within the Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District.

Graveface said he was inspired to open the shop after he and his wife visited the mall on a rainy day and he found nothing he was interested in, aside from maybe the horror magazines at Barnes and Noble.

“We reached out and they were interested in having us," he said. “And this is more affordable than Starland because you know, word on the street is that malls are dead or dying."

Located in a space formerly occupied by a Hollister, Graveface's customers will find record crates packed full of classic and contemporary artists such as Charles Mingus, Hüsker Dü, Kendrick Lamar, Iron Maiden and Cigarettes After Sex, in addition to Savannah-based bands on his Graveface Records label. On the surrounding walls, shelves of toy figures, games, costumes, Tarot cards and animal skulls are on display. A back room further showcases Graveface's love of horror and goth with clothing, hair dye, masks, candles, VHS rentals and obscure movie soundtrack cassettes produced under his Terror Vision label. A side room is packed with classic arcade games and pinball machines customers can play for $5 an hour.

In a way, the new store is Graveface's own past catching up to him. When "mall age" in Toledo, Ohio in the mid-90s, he said there was not much to do but hang out at the now-closed North Town Square. While at that mall, he said he found his fondness for records, which were cheaper than CDs, the popular format at the time. In addition, his dad would also take him to horror expos there, "which was [expletive] great," he said.

Graveface's arrival comes as malls are closing and being repurposed across the country. The Oglethorpe Mall itself is in the process of a major transition, with the pending demolition of the shuttered Sears on the mall's west end to make room for a 240-unit apartment complex. And the future of the Savannah Mall is a big question mark after it was auctioned off last year to a new owner that has kept mum on plans for the site.

Oglethorpe Mall officials did not respond to a request for comment, but Graveface said the foot traffic there has been great and business at the mall has been better than at the Starland location, with cheaper rent.

“If somebody had even the slightest motivation to open a retail shop this would be the place to do it," he said.

The shop is open during mall hours on the Macy's wing of the building. Graveface expects to operate out of the space through "the holiday", which for him is, of course, Halloween and not Christmas. He said he would like to operate out of the space longer, but he does not think a lease extension is in the cards due to a perception that he is involved in "shenanigans" or his stuff is "weird."

"Landlords just don't like me," Graveface said. "They don't like the aesthetic."

While you'll find some odder items, including a display of small animal hearts encased in resin - the store's "aesthetic" is actually on the tamer side compared to the Starland location and his Graveface Museum on Lower Factors Walk. There was no artwork by serial killers and the taxidermied creatures were out of public view in the storage room in the back. The uniqueness of the store largely stems from the fact it is locally owned and operated, with a Savannah-based entrepreneur simply showcasing his personal interests as an alternative to the corporate-owned cookie-cutter operations throughout similar U.S. shopping destinations. 

After purchasing the building that houses the Starland store last year, Graveface doesn't have to worry about any landlord squabbles there. However, a rift with the owner of 415 West Boundary St. means he will be vacating the building where his Lodge of Sorrows music venue currently operates.

But NeverNotGoth fans, shouldn't fret. Graveface said he is now preparing to purchase a property on Stiles Avenue in the area the city has dubbed the Canal District near the city's Enmarket Arena, where he intends to reopen the music venue, along with a variety of other businesses such as a theater, vinyl pressing plant and screen printing operation.

"I'm going to call it the 'Graveface District' because it's funny to me," he said.

Meanwhile, the Lodge of Sorrows still has some shows lined up, including Austin-based Urban Heat, which recently played the Cruel World festival in Pasadena, Ca. with artists such as Siouxsie and Iggy Pop.

Published May 30, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.


Eric Curl

Connect Savannah Freelance Correspondent I Eric Curl is probably reading building permits, sales records and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at Savannahagenda.com.
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